As the Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) Coordinator for East Grand School (RSU 84), Angela Cowger works with students to create meaningful experiences for students that build a long-lasting framework for the school’s ELO program.
“We are bringing awareness to students, parents, teachers, businesses, and community leaders about what ELOs are as well as working with them to provide varied, high-quality ELOs to students,” said Cowger. “Our goal is to develop an integrated, sustainable, and effective ELO program with a focus on career exploration, meaningful paid work experience, and work readiness skills that prepare students to be the next generation of innovators and small business leaders.”
Cowger says the best part of her day-to-day work is definitely the time she spends with the students. “It is rewarding to see students’ sense of pride and accomplishment when contributing to a community project, work placement, or other hands-on learning,” she said. “The growth and learning students gain from these ELO experiences are exceptional.”
Some recent successes include the experience of East Grand senior Phoebe Foss who is working on an ELO with the local town office on the Danforth Livable Community Program project. She is helping get the program off the ground, by coordinating and providing technology, social, nutrition, and other services. Phoebe is helping to facilitate these services as well as bring awareness about the program to social media and other local communication sources so the community can benefit from the much-needed opportunities and resources for its aging population.
Another student, Alan Emery is gaining hands-on experience and a more in-depth understanding of what it means to become a registered Maine guide, which he aspires to become after high school graduation. Alan recently participated in a week-long trip at a remote northern Maine wall tent moose hunting camp where his chores included working with two camp cooks with meal preparation, serving, and cleanup, fetching water daily from a stream for washing dishes and for hot showers, collecting and cutting firewood to use in the camp wood stoves in the dining and sleeping tents. He also assisted with breaking down camp and packing it away.
“Having Alan involved with our remote Maine moose camp not only provided great exposure and training but also opened the door to future possible employment for him,” said local businessman and registered Maine Guide Dave Conley of Canoe The Wild, who mentored Alan during the experience. “This training was invaluable and something that can’t be learned in a classroom.”
East Grand School is currently in the process of designing and implementing a k-12 Small Business Pathway, connecting Career and Life Readiness, Economics, and Guiding Principle standards at each grade level. The ELO program helps them launch the grades 9-12 work readiness portion of the Small Business Pathway.
“We are looking forward to working with local businesses to further students’ work readiness and entrepreneurial skills, as well as helping students collaborate with community leaders to solve community challenges,” said Cowger.
Cowger also says they already have several business leaders and community partners to thank, including Kiley Henderson at County Physical Therapy, Dave Conley at Canoe The Wild Maine Guide Service, Ardis Brown at the Danforth town office, David Apgar at the Snow Farm, and Sam Henderson and Greg Miller at Northern Maine Realty.
“These businesses and their leaders have been fantastic to work with and we are so thankful for them,” added Cowger. “We have received several optimistic responses as well as offers to connect with students in the future from local businesses. The support has been very positive! We are looking forward to many successful partnerships in the future.”
Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) are hands-on, credit-bearing courses outside of the traditional classroom with an emphasis on community-based career exploration. These opportunities are personalized for students and help them explore options for their professional lives. They help students engage in learning through instruction, assignments, and experiential learning. The Maine Department of Education (DOE), along with state-wide partner Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG), have made a concerted effort to provide working models, support, and funding opportunities for Maine schools to set up ELO programs within their school communities. To learn more about Maine’s initiatives with extended learning opportunities, visit: https://www.maine.gov/doe/index.php/learning/elo or reach out to Maine DOE ELO Coordinator Rick Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.